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Author Topic: PC094: A Light In Troy  (Read 3996 times)
Heradel
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« on: March 09, 2010, 08:39:27 AM »

PodCastle 94: A Light In Troy

by Sarah Monette.
Read by Ann Leckie.
Originally appeared in Clarkesworld.

Since she was literate, she had been put to work in the fortress’s library. It was undemanding work, and she did not hate it; it gave her something to do to fill the weary hours of daylight. When she had been brought to the fortress, she had expected to be ill-treated‚ a prisoner, a slave‚ but in truth she was mostly ignored. The fortress’s masters had younger, prettier girls to take to bed; the women, cool and distant and beautiful as she had once been herself, were not interested in a ragged woman with haunted half-crazed eyes. The librarian, a middle-aged man already gone blind over his codices and scrolls, valued her for her voice. But he was the only person she had to talk to, and she blurted as she came into the library, “I saw a child.”

“Beg pardon?”

“On the beach this morning. I saw a child.”

“Oh,” said the librarian. “I thought we’d killed them all.”

Rated PG for feral children and the winners who write history.

This episode was brought to you by The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, out now from Orbit. You can read the first three chapters of the book at www.Nkjemisin.com.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2010, 07:25:49 PM by Heradel » Logged

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Listener
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2010, 08:56:08 AM »

I'm not 100% certain about what happened in this story. So... the Troyans (Greeks, I think?) kept on expanding, took over the known world (that's the "fantasy" part), and at some point the MC's people were subjugated and she became a slave in the library, and then she meets this feral kid and "tames" him? Is that basically it?

The writing was good. I guess I just didn't grok the story. I didn't care enough about the MC, and the blind Troyan librarian wasn't the interesting character (in my opinion) that he was intended to be.
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yicheng
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2010, 12:49:21 PM »

I'm not 100% certain about what happened in this story. So... the Troyans (Greeks, I think?) kept on expanding, took over the known world (that's the "fantasy" part), and at some point the MC's people were subjugated and she became a slave in the library, and then she meets this feral kid and "tames" him? Is that basically it?

The writing was good. I guess I just didn't grok the story. I didn't care enough about the MC, and the blind Troyan librarian wasn't the interesting character (in my opinion) that he was intended to be.

I think it's more the other way.  Trojans got killed off by the Mycenean Greeks (remember the Illiad).  Troy itself held out for 9 years, before succumbing to the "olde trojan horse" trick.  The greeks burnt the city to the ground and either killed or enslaved every inhabitat.

From the description of the conquering people, they sound more like Romans: like to conquer, not very seafaring.  The Greeks always had too much infighting and weren't really in the habit of conquering foreign nations, with the one brief exception of Alexander The Great.
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Listener
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2010, 02:41:22 PM »

I'm not 100% certain about what happened in this story. So... the Troyans (Greeks, I think?) kept on expanding, took over the known world (that's the "fantasy" part), and at some point the MC's people were subjugated and she became a slave in the library, and then she meets this feral kid and "tames" him? Is that basically it?

The writing was good. I guess I just didn't grok the story. I didn't care enough about the MC, and the blind Troyan librarian wasn't the interesting character (in my opinion) that he was intended to be.

I think it's more the other way.  Trojans got killed off by the Mycenean Greeks (remember the Illiad).  Troy itself held out for 9 years, before succumbing to the "olde trojan horse" trick.  The greeks burnt the city to the ground and either killed or enslaved every inhabitat.

From the description of the conquering people, they sound more like Romans: like to conquer, not very seafaring.  The Greeks always had too much infighting and weren't really in the habit of conquering foreign nations, with the one brief exception of Alexander The Great.

Yeah, it's been a REALLY long time since I studied World History.
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Talia
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2010, 09:07:30 AM »

I'm guessing this story is one you need to be better versed in history to appreciate fully. I liked it, but it seemed very slight - I think perhaps because any historical parallels just went right over my head.

Thought I was pleased as punch to see a Sarah Monette story here, as I am totally infatuated with her wonderful Labyrinth books.
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eytanz
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2010, 01:19:07 PM »

I don't know if it's a lack of historical/classical knowledge - and I'm certainly not without knowledge of ancient history, though I am hardly an expert - or the fault of the writing, or maybe I'm just missing something, but this story completely failed to engage me. I think Talia got it exactly right when she called it "slight" - it just felt like there was very little to it.
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Gia
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2010, 08:08:40 PM »

"Slight" is a good word for it. I liked the story, but when we got to the end I felt as if it should have gone on at least ten minutes longer. Something more needed to happen.
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2010, 10:57:43 PM »

I listened to this one at work, and the point of it was lost on me, but what I heard didn't interest me enough to try listening again.  Oh, well....
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2010, 01:07:35 AM »

I heartily approve of the unstated ending.  ("It skips seven times.")

I heartily disapprove of the really clumsy dialogue and emphasis on emotion words, constantly telling us how the characters feel about things instead of relying on subtler cues. 

In the mix, it comes out just on the "Yeah, okay," side.  If it had gone on much longer I think the needle would've dropped to the red.
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SirJolt
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« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2010, 08:01:17 AM »

Just didn't enjoy this one, sadly. The girlfriend was of the opinion that it was a "very poor reading of an alright story," but, for whatever reason, neither of us listened right through.

To those saying they didn't really get it because they're not up on their classics, I've got a diploma in classical literature/history and I'm in the same boat Sad
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« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2010, 09:44:02 AM »

Didn't care for this one.  I'm not a huge history buff, though I have read The Iliad and the Odyssey.  It seems like this story is aimed only at history experts.  Not that a story can't draw on historical details, but I'd really like it to stand on it's own and this one didn't.  The woman begins to raise the feral boy, the blind librarian takes an interest and that's it.  This wasn't just a story without an ending, it was also a story without a middle--it just had the beginning to explain the settings and characters, and never reached the rising action or climax.

The "silent" spaces between speaking in the story were rather loud--perhaps some kind of adaptive noise suppression that amplified the ambient noise?
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ireneybean
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2010, 02:36:14 PM »

It ended so abruptly and without anything having happened that I literally thought there was something wrong with the file.  I was liking it up until that point though!
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feste451
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2010, 11:07:57 PM »

When I heard this I had forgotten I had read it at the Clarkesworld site. Once I read the entry on the PC site, it all came back. Even so, how I heard/read it, I pictured a world very similar to ours where their "Troy" fell just as our own. The "light" as I interpret it, is simply her life coming out of the dark place it had created during the war. The healing begins with the feral child who becomes a surrogate for the child she lost during the war. It also helps her to learn the librarian is just as "human" as she despite his being a locust. The only awkward moment for me was how the MC deduced the child was raised by wild dogs through encyclopedia research rather than direct observation.

I probably won't keep this one long on my iPod but I did enjoy giving it a listen.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2010, 05:13:21 PM »

Mmm, a definite "kinda sorta liked it" one. I, too, thought the reading was cut off before it ended. But I guess not.
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yicheng
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« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2010, 11:48:34 AM »

I think I ended up liking this one.  It's definitely not for the action-oriented, but I think this had a zen-quality to it.  It helps to be a history-geek, I guess, but I think it does a lot with only a few characters.  For me, the story was about redemption, as the woman, the man, and the kid were all horribly scarred from the past.  For all three of them, everyone they knew were probably dead and long gone.  It was one of those holy-cow moments to think about the huge fortress that was built by an extinct people that was now populated by their conquerers.  It boggles the mind to think about how much of modern civilization was built on top and by various tribes committing genocide on each other.  Every one of us are here because at some point in history, our ancestors were powerful and brutal enough to wipe out other peoples and resist being wiped out (usually by doing the former).
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Gamercow
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« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2010, 09:33:00 AM »

I thought this was was a bit shallow, and it had one part that really bothered me, but that's more of a personal issue.  When the MC said "But I have to love SOMEONE", it rankled me because so many people, women especially, think just that, that they are less of a human being if they don't love someone other than themselves.  I say that women are guilty of this more than men, but only because they are taught so by society more than men that their "purpose" is to be subservient and nurturing and caring towards others over their own needs. 
Why does it rankle me?  Because that thinking teaches people that they are not a whole and legitimate person unless they are taking care of someone else, which to me lessens that person's self-worth and independence, which I think is VERY important. 

Now, many of you are probably reading this post, and saying "You got all of that out of this story?"  And the answer is no, that one line just made me irritated at the MC, and therefore care less about her, and in turn, about the story.
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yicheng
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« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2010, 11:35:23 AM »

@Gamercow, true.  But, isn't the male version of that (i.e. "I have to do SOMETHING!!") just as bad?  How many men define themselves by what they do (job, hobby, sports, etc).
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« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2010, 08:40:44 AM »

@Gamercow, true.  But, isn't the male version of that (i.e. "I have to do SOMETHING!!") just as bad?  How many men define themselves by what they do (job, hobby, sports, etc).

Good points on both sides.  Working as an engineer with other engineers who are mostly men, I see the job-focused men more often.  Not all, by any means, but even some who are married with kids get very upset if they are expected to participate in *gasp* actual interaction with the child. 
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Gamercow
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« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2010, 07:47:39 PM »

@Gamercow, true.  But, isn't the male version of that (i.e. "I have to do SOMETHING!!") just as bad?  How many men define themselves by what they do (job, hobby, sports, etc).

Too many.  And it annoys me very much when I spot it. Good point!
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mbrennan
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« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2010, 09:27:41 AM »

My crit group just had a Troy-tastic week (both pieces up for comment were Trojan War stories), so I was eager to hear this one.  Other than assuming the narrator was Andromache, though, I didn't get much classical geekery out of it -- I kept trying to peg the blind librarian, but never did figure out if he was supposed to be someone identifiable.

The actual narrative didn't compel me, I think because I neither felt powerfully enough about the narrator to be invested in her desires, nor saw enough stakes in what she was doing to feel it mattered to anyone other than her.  Things don't have to be slam-bang action, but I need some kind of hook to draw me in, and didn't find one here.
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